The Cumbrian town of Whitehaven will lead the UK's switch to digital-only television, broadcasting minister Shaun Woodward has announced. In a letter to MPs Woodward and industry minister Margaret Hodge said analogue signals in Whitehaven would be switched off in autumn 2007. The Border television region—the first to go digital-only under the Government's 2008-2012 switchover timetable—will complete its transition in the second quarter of 2009 when the area served by the Caldbeck transmitter switches over.
Woodward said: "The people of Whitehaven will lead the rest of the UK into the digital future. They will be the first to experience the enormous benefit from digital switchover as it will happen across the UK. Over 15m UK homes are already enjoying the benefits of digital TV, such as greater choice of channels, red button interactive features and better quality pictures and sound.
"We know from the Ferryside trial [in Wales] that it's possible to switch a community from analogue to digital television. And we know from the Bolton trial that older and disabled people can make the switch with the right help.
"I'm pleased that Digital UK will bring both the technical and support aspects of switchover together in Whitehaven and begin the biggest change to British broadcasting since colour TV."
Digital UK CEO Ford Ennals said: "Today's announcement puts Whitehaven at the forefront of the most exciting change to television for a generation. Switchover will significantly add to the choice of channels available and give people options in how to go digital.
"Digital UK's job is to make sure everyone knows how to prepare for the change and that no one is left behind. In the coming months, we will be working closely with many different organisations in Whitehaven to ensure everyone is prepared for switchover and the benefits it will bring."
Woodward's department said Whitehaven—which has around 25,000 households—had been chosen because it is a clearly defined area with little signal overlap. Residents there cannot currently receive Freeview.
Digital UK will write to every resident in Whitehaven within the next few weeks, outlining what is happening and providing further sources of information.
Lovelace Consulting | 20.07.2006